To leave Hauts Du Brel at the end of January, head down through Spain to Portugal to spend a few days with Tim and Helen and then on to Morocco. We had to be back by 24 Feb, which gave us over 3 weeks to play with but nothing booked apart from the first leg to Alvor in the Algarve.
Alexander and I (with a lot of help from Google, Booking.com and AirBnB when we could get an Internet connection…)
Georgina was flying down to Faro to meet up for the Portugal stay and then she was flying off to Australia. Susan was hoping to join but was struck down with Flu after the Egypt trip.
Suffice to say that we did the trip in my Land Rover and lived to tell the tale… Although we felt this was sure to be a more reliable option than the Renault 4 we originally had in mind there was the small issue that the Land Rover had done 300,000 miles was making a few funny noises and had recently had a misfire problem.. Oh yes, and the timing belt was overdue for a change.
I took masses of tools and didn’t need them (apart from some duct tape).
We took loads of books to read and never looked at them.
We took fishing gear and didn’t fish.
We took tennis stuff and… you get the picture..
I bought a dash cam to protect against errant donkey carts and the general melee that is driving in Morocco, but this turned out to be of dubious legality so was not used much – they confiscate drones and are paranoid about security.
Although little of this was planned in advance, this was the route we took, highlighting the main places we stayed.
This is the running order and is followed in the rest of this post.
Alvor – visiting Tim and Helen
Lixus Roman City
Volubilis Roman City
Circuit Catalunya – F1 winter testing
I had booked a place in the old part of San Sebastien with parking, which was a bit surprising as there is not much parking available around there. The road outside the accommodation was being dug up so we couldn’t even get near it in the car so went on foot. The owner then explained that there was parking – but it was in an (expensive) underground car park nearby – and that would be extra ! I asked if there was any free parking and he pointed out a street on the map about 20 minutes walk away, which I recognised as we parked in the same place when I was here with Susan in October. So we set off and parked the car in this quiet street and walked back in to the town.
Visited a few pintxos bars and then headed back for the night. In the morning we had a 20 minute walk to get the car so we stopped for breakfast in a local cafe – first taste of toast with olive oil and tomatoes.
Then we went to get the car – only to find IT WASN’T THERE !
First reaction was – “We’ve got the wrong street” and “Maybe we parked a bit further along”, but then Alexander recognised the van parked a few cars back and spotted some broken car window glass in the gutter…
Panic starting to get a grip “Someone has stolen the car!”. And then it sinks in – we’re in a foreign country where we can’t speak the language, all we have is our overnight bags as everything else was in the car. Minor point but we have some accomodation booked for tonight that is a 6 hour drive away and were hoping for an early start and it’s a non refundable booking.
Thought of calling the Police but :
a. Don’t know the number and
b. Can’t speak the language
Decide to phone the owner of the accommodation (who told us to park here) to see if he can help and agree to head back to his place..
On the long walk back to his place lots of thoughts going through my mind – in addition to the obvious one of what the f&#k do we do now. My car is a 13 year old 300,000 mile Land Rover – who the hell would want to steal it ?
Get back to the place and things start to fall into place – the owner has phoned the police and they have the car. We just need to get over there and fill in some paperwork to get it back…
It turns out that someone smashed the window, then someone else called the police and they turned up and decided to tow it away rather than leave it like that.
Were they trying to get in to steal stuff – we did foolishly leave some things on the back seat – and were disturbed before they could get in ? Fortunatey nothing was stolen, but it did take a while to fill in forms and make statements to the Police before we could get the car back – then a long drive to do – and we had to fix the window.
For the trip down we were planning on 5-6 hours driving per day and simple overnight stops, but today was my birthday – one to remember with the car incident – so I had booked a Parador, which was the best place we stayed in on the whole trip.
The next leg took us further down through Spain, across into Portugal and on to Alvor, where Tim and Helen spend six months of the year and have recently bought an apartment. We were staying in an apartment on the beach for four days.
Dropped Georgina off at Faro airport and then went on for an overnight stop in Seville, giving us an easy drive to catch the ferry at Algeciras the next day – very unsure about how long the formalities would take for the car.
We were a little concerned about the crossing – we had no ticket and had read a lot of stories on line about long delays when trying to bring in a car and problems with ticket touts. In the event it all went smoothly as they seem to have streamlined the whole process and tightened security. The car was X-rayed before being allowed into Morocco – don’t know what they were looking for. 1.5 hour crossing.
After a few days in Tangier we went south to Rabat (capital of Morocco) but stopped off at a few places on the way. Assillah is a picturesque seaside town with a very arty flavour.
Went to see the Roman site of Lixus and begin to understand more about the history of Morocco and Mediterranean trade. A huge site but with only low walls remaining. Here was the largest fish salting facility in the empire..
Lixus overlooks the modern town of Larache which is an active fishing port.
We had considered heading further south to Marrakech (which was the original plan) but we had been there before and there were other places to explore in the North of Morocco so we headed East to Meknes, which turned out to be a small version of Marrakech and the most “Moroccan” of the places we visited.
Our second Roman city – this one built on the grain and olive oil farmed in the area. Unlike Lixus, many of the mosaics were still in place and more of the structures were still standing.
Really pretty “blue city”.
Stayed in a “proper” hotel in Tetouan as we needed a bit of comfort and to get some washing done..
We had looked at driving to Ceuta which is a Spanish city on Moroccan soil, but had read stories about long delays at the border. In the end we decided to take the same crossing to get back to Spain.
The queue for X-raying the car (again) was very long so we had sniffer dogs and a search instead. Fortunately Alexander had resisted all the offers of “weed” that we had received during our stay – Chefchouen is a major producer apparently.
Stayed the night in Garnada and did have in mind to visit the Alhambra palace – but it was booked up weeks in advance even in February…
We spotted that F1 winter testing was taking place this week near Barcelona so had to call in to take a look…
The Mercedes look like they might be hard to beat.
The objective was to be away from the Quercy during Jan/Feb to avoid the cold, miserable weather so it was nice to come home to warmth and blue skies and to see the almond in blossom.
And despite being “stolen” and making a few funny noises and having covered an extra 3,500 miles on this trip the Land Rover worked perfectly…